Friday, October 5, 2012

Battle of the Paddle Report

Congratulations to all the Canadian Paddlers who participated in Battle of the Paddle - way to represent!

Battle of the Paddle 2012 Recap by Mike Darbyshire

My second trip to the Battle of the Paddle certainly did not disappoint!  I got a chance to paddle with the best paddlers in the world and some of my Canadian SUP colleagues!

 I was again amazed at how easy it is to do a weekend trip down to Southern California.  It is a little more expensive but in the same amount of time it takes to go from Vancouver to Tofino you could be on a plane, in a rental car and surfing without a wetsuit in Southern California.  Yes it is a little bit more expensive when you factor in the flight, rental car and hotel but it is a pretty reasonable extended long weekend.

We headed down to the beach in our rental van with myself and Karly and other members of the Canadian Starboard Team: Gary Parsons, Shannon Bell, Lina Augaitis, Yannick Michaud and Sarah LaFerte.  We got to the beach and found members of the International team and North American team unwrapping some of the brand new 2013 boards.  After seeing the catalogue about a month ago I was excited to finally see the boards in person.  More info about the 2013 boards to come in a future post.

The weather looked great for the weekend and the swell was forecasted at about 3-5 feet with a long period.  Perfect conditions for the race, not too big, but enough to really make it interesting. I have never been more nervous leading up to a race.  I didn’t want to come all the way down to California and disappoint myself with a poor performance.  My goal was: make it to the finals and have a fun race.

 With a higher tide for the first heat the waves were little bit smaller and breaking closer to the beach.  This meant the challenging section of this heat would be the boneyard.  The boneyard is a shallow rocky section on the right side of the race course where waves break right at the almost 180 degree buoy turn.

I started the race next to fellow Canadian Norm Hann and we managed to both get off to a good start towards the middle/front of the pack.  We made it out to the first buoy turn in good positions. Being near the back of the pack gets pretty clogged up around this first turn so it was great to be near the front. I had a pretty clean race with only one fall and I managed to squeak into the finals after passing a few paddlers on the last lap of the qualifying heat. Norm managed to pull ahead of the little group I was in and was able to paddle a good clean race as well, making it through to the finals.

The Open race took place on Saturday in between the Elite Qualifying heats and the Finals.  Over 400 Stand Up Paddlers in one race setting a new Guinness World Record for the biggest Stand Up Paddleboard race ever.  Some of our Canadian crew paddled in the open race and did very well:
Karly Cox:  2nd for Female 12’6: 19-29
Lina Augaitis: 1st female overall (despite what the results say)
Gary Parsons: 6th overall – First Male 14’: 50-59
Tim Quarles: 4th in his category

The tide dropped a lot for the finals of the Elite race in the afternoon.  This made for a pretty gnarly, rocky beach and some more hazards in between laps.  I made a poor choice an started near the right side of the beach that was scattered with rocks just below the surface.  Normally a good start is one of my strong suits but after hitting a few rocks with my fins and falling a couple times I had to start the race from behind. Shallow conditions also meant that I bashed my Werner Grand Prix off of a few rocks but it held up very well throughout a rough weekend of racing.  I know there were more than a few paddlers who had some broken paddle issues (Cyril Burgiere in particular).

I ended up near the back of the pack off the start and wasn’t able to make up much ground on a field of truly elite paddlers. I was finally able to relax on my last lap and really appreciated how much fun the day of racing was. I caught some great waves in my last couple laps and passed a couple paddlers in the transitions.   I’m not used to placing 65th in any race, but against a field like that I can’t be disappointed! I’ve got some work to do for next year and I’m looking forward to trying to better my results in 2013!

As if that wasn’t enough that was just day one. Day 2 held the Distance Race, Kids Races, SUP Surf Relay and an attempt to break another Guinness World Record, this time for the most surfers riding a single wave.   I chose not to paddle in the distance race and spent my morning surfing and checking out some new boards, paddles and other exhibitors.

I paddled out on an 8’5” Starboard Pro to watch the start of the distance race.  A mass on-water start for the 10 mile race is pretty neat to watch first hand. I caught a few waves while everyone was racing and then headed to the finish line to watch Danny Ching paddle into the beach uncontested for the victory.

The final event of the weekend was the spectator favorite SUP Surf Relay.  I was reluctant at first because I was sore and a bit tired but we had to represent Canada and put a team together.  Each paddler on the 4 person team had to do 2 laps of a short sprint course in and out of the surf.  There were almost 50 teams and our Canadian Team of Norm Hann, Gary Parsons, Lina Augaitis and myself managed a 10th place finish which is very respectable!  As most relay races are, this one was full of fun, carnage, swimming and laughs.  Turns out Lina was right and it does end up being the best way to cap off a great weekend.

Big thanks to all of my sponsors for helping me out throughout the season and for helping me get down to Battle of the Paddle.  I am already looking forward to next year and I hope to see even more Canadians in the mix for 2013!  Thanks to Starboard, Deep Cove Outdoors, Werner Paddles and Nikki Rekman Sales for all your support!

We also have a great trip report from sponsored female SUP Paddler, Lina Augaitis that she posted to her blog HERE
Lina celebrating her 1st place prize for the Open Race with Sparky and Gerry Lopez
Team Canada!  Lina, Gary Parsons, Shannon Bell-Parsons, Mike, Karly Cox and Norm Hann missing Yannick Michaud

Hope to have more photos from Mike and Lina to post soon!

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Green River, UT

Green River, UT
Photo: Shawna Franklin